Part of the fun of writing album reviews for Lady Obscure is when we receive advance promos for upcoming albums before their official release. There are some albums that create a buzz within the virtual offices of Lady Obscure such as recent releases from Nightwish, Kamelot, Symphony X, and Blind Guardian. Then there are those albums that fly below the radar and catch us by surprise. One of those albums for me is Quiet World, the debut album from Native Construct. Initially, when I received the promo and saw this was a Metal Blade release I cast it aside, thinking it was yet another horrid “metalcore” album, as that seems to be Metal Blade’s genre of choice in recent years. Thankfully, I read the album biography I realized that this might be something I should delve into, and after one listen to Quiet World, I am thankful I did!
Quiet World is a concept album of sorts, about a guy who loves a girl. The guy is a bit of an odd and eccentric person – an outcast. He’s also a mute, and a little unstable, as it turns out. The girl doesn’t return his feelings, but he can’t bring himself to let go. As his unrequited passion for her devolves into obsession and eventual resentment, his mind begins to slip further and further away. He convinces himself that he can’t be loved because of his condition and abnormalities. So he decides to create for himself a new, fantastic world of which he has complete control – a world where there are no oddballs or outcasts, a world where everyone is surrounded by people who are just like themselves: a much quieter world.
The first track Mute has a Haken meets classic Queen feel to it. The multi-harmony vocals recall Freddie Mercury and company while the music is a frenzied mix of complex prog metal, jazz, blast beats, and a touch of cinematic orchestral bombast. The next track The Spark of Archon starts with pulsing techno-synth keys and programmed drums, which give way to a crushing riff and the catchy as hell melodic guitar melody. The soaring orchestrations and beautiful vocals melodues are in direct contrast to the brutal blast beats that permeate the songs tranquil moments. A chiming music box melody intro signals the next song Passage. The prog synths mid-song make way for a gorgeous saxophone solo, which grabs the listener’s attention and refuses to let go. Things get brutal with growling vocals and more blast beats but the melodies are never buried amidst the chaos.
Your Familiar Face has many similarities with classic theatrical rockers Queen, from the melodic lead vocals of Robert Edens, multi-harmony background vocals, Michael Yang’s crystalline lead guitar melodies and the overall swinging hard rock swagger and groove. This song is most likely as close to a “single” as a band such as this is going to get. Come Hell or High Water begins with a riff and somber violin strains and a melancholy theatrical vocal from Edens. As the song moves along the riffs get darker, the song picks up in intensity, until the growling death vocals pounce on the listener with brutal force. The odd-time changes and uber-progressive elements will challenge all but the most hardened listener of progressive music. Edens truly shines on lead vocals with an amazing display of melody, absurd theatricality, and vocal control. The album comes to a close with the short ambient instrumental Chromatic lights before launching into the albums magnum opus, the 12-minute plus Chromatic Aberration. The song takes the listener through a sort of “re-cap” of the listener’s musical adventure throughout the album with re-visiting the albums musical themes and melodies while also exploring new territories with some incredible prog jams and Edens pulls off some chaotic vocal stylings mixing that with sweet melodic crooning that would make Mike Patton of Faith No More proud. The songs twists and turns keep you on your toes with literally no time to breathe between everything that is going on rhythmically and majestic orchestration that leaves the listener breathless. The production on the album is stellar and all the more impressive when you realize the album was recorded while the band members were also busy juggling their creation of a prog metal opus with their studies as students at Berklee College of Music.
In all Quiet World is an amazing achievement in the ever changing landscape of progressive music and will appeal to fans of Haken, Dream Theater, Beyond The Buried And Me, and Leprous. I have to admit I was slightly disappointed in learning that the drums on Quiet World are all programmed and not performed by a studio drummer. I will be interested in finding out how these complex songs and arrangements work in a live setting and it looks like I along with fans in the Boston area will get a chance to find out as the band will be performing at The Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts as part of a benefit for victims of the recent earthquakes in Nepal. The benefit is titled Metal For Nepal and features Native Construct alongside several other local Boston area metal bands. Tickets can be purchased at this location.